by The Chicago Times Staff

June 25, 2021

SEOUL — According to satellite images assessed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, North Korea is performing “major maintenance and expansion” at its Sunchon Airbase, which houses the most advanced aircraft in the country’s aging fleet.

Repairs and extensions of runways, taxiways, and the aircraft apron have been made to the base, which is around 25 miles northeast of Pyongyang, according to an online study published Thursday by CSIS’s Beyond Parallel project.

The changes appear to have been timed to coincide with the Korean People’s Air and Air-Defense Force’s annual summer training cycle, during which “KPAF aircraft are redeployed for flight training and to test operational readiness,” according to the report’s authors, Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha.

The airbase is home to the Korean People’s Air Force’s Unit 1017, which flies the country’s only MiG-29 and Su-25 fighter planes, which were supplied in the 1980s and are still North Korea’s most modern combat planes.

Sunchon’s maintenance and extension project was first seen in April, when the Su-25 ground attack planes and MiG-29 fighter planes were transported to separate sites, indicating that a surprising number of the planes were still in operating order, according to the article.

In April, South Korea debuted the KF-21 Boramae, a prototype of its first homegrown fighter aircraft.  North Korea has already expressed its displeasure with the US stealth fighter sale, calling it a grave provocation that exacerbates tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

While US officials have publicly stated a willingness to resume diplomatic talks with Pyongyang, Pyongyang’s foreign minister, Ri Son Gwon, said on Wednesday that Pyongyang is “not considering even the possibility of any contact with the U.S.”

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